I'm a leader in learning technology, starting my career in the tech space in 2003. I became Director & CEO of Intellek (formerly TutorPro) in 2017 when the board bought into my bolder, bigger, braver vision. I more recently co-founded another tech company to support the new T Level qualifications being rolled out by the UK Government.
I'm an advocate for Women in STEM and leadership roles and have a passion for digital transformation and its impact on the global economy. My personal vision, and audacious goal, is to ensure that every child gets access to education and a safe environment through my charitable initiative Opening Doors Global, starting in the Inchanga community in Durban, South Africa before taking it worldwide.
When I was a school student in the UK two decades ago, my teachers tried to dissuade me from pursuing IT and Business Studies. Their reasons were twofold. First, they held a misogynistic view that females should be focusing their energies elsewhere. Second, their limited vision of my grit and determination!
Realising that tech would define the future, I refused to listen to the naysayers and let such self-limiting attitudes hold me back and threw myself into the world of technology with wild abandon. The self-belief paid off, and today I've carved an extremely successful niche for myself in the digital sphere.
I didn’t pursue a place at University knowing this route wasn’t for me and wouldn’t suit my learning style. I would have just ended up with student loan debt and no degree. Instead, I took a job working in admin for South West Water and one day overheard colleagues discussing the creation of an internal website… That was it! I bought a programming book and taught myself how to code! The following year the opportunity arose to work for Intellek (formerly TutorPro), and so the journey began. I started to further my career in IT and began by creating eLearning content and developing the Learning Management System.
When the former Director fired his entire Sales Team (!), I helped out with client renewals and sales two days per week, developing for three days per week. Knowing the products inside out, I naturally took to sales and loved the interaction with clients.
The Pivotal Moment
I continued to rise through the ranks of the company until I became VP of Client Success in 2010. This period was interrupted by what turned out to be a 4-month working break in South Africa where I spent mornings volunteering for the ‘projects’ in the Inchanga community, and afternoons working remotely for the business.
I had arranged for the company to provide the ‘1000 Hills Community Centre’ with free eLearning courses to enhance the computer programs they were running.
During this period, whilst on an aid visit, I met three young boys whose mother had died in their ‘shack’ and who were horrifically left with her body with no one to care for them. I battled with the Coroner and Social Services for several days until finally, they gave me full responsibility for the boys. I then spent the next week trying to locate any family they had and, long story short, I managed to get them rehomed with their Aunty. Since then, I have kept in touch and monitored the boys’ progress and revisit the ‘townships’ in South Africa every couple of years, taking with me money raised through sponsored walks etc, and hauling over large suitcases full of clothing and other much-needed items.
While living in South Africa, I realised I wanted to be at the helm of Intellek and realised four core dreams for the business. I knew it could be the vehicle for social change in the countries that needed it the most. I wanted it to be a company that could leverage technology to solve real-world problems. My idea for Opening Doors Global was born.
My vision for Opening Doors was to support my audacious goal to ensure every child gets access to education and a safe environment, reducing the number of child-headed families. The second part of my idea was to provide a robust digital training program to help those who have been in prison return to employment.
Opening Doors began in South Africa, but I knew I wanted to take it global. Learning should be considered not only as a tool for eradicating poverty but also as an opportunity to ignite a revolution for future progress.
My Vision for Intellek…
I wanted a company that stands in the gap for women and ethnic minorities in business, continually fighting for fair and equal representation in STEM and leadership roles. A company that is able to leverage technology in order to solve real-world problems, whose success does not compromise its ability to develop and nurture close relationships with its clients. To be a company responsible for genuine change within the learning technology industry. Change that strengthens skills, maintains a culture of continued learning, and empowers people to excel in every educational institution and business worldwide.
Knocking on the Door…
In 2017, I decided this was the time. I knocked on the door of the Directors at the time, explained that I thought it was time for them to retire, pitched my vision, and detailed exactly why now was the right time for me to be appointed CEO. Some people thought I was mad but my opportunism was rewarded! The board of directors had faith in my bigger, bolder vision, and at the end of the meeting, I become the new Director and CEO … literally on the spot with no further ado!!
As per one of my favourite quotes: “A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water."- Eleanor Roosevelt.
Since 2017 the business has dramatically changed: the technology, culture, clientele, but was still known as TutorPro. In January of 2022, my team and I rebranded the business as Intellek, the rebrand was a real manifestation of my dreams.
Intellek, which means ‘Intellect’ in Afrikaans, was launched with a gazelle as the new logo, otherwise known as a ‘springbok’ in South Africa (where the dream of Intellek was first realised). The springbok symbolises rising above adversity, being lean, agile and strong. The antlers show that the springbok is female. This is representative of the fact that Intellek is proud to be a female-led company that stands in the gap for women in business, continually fighting for fair and equal representation in STEM and leadership roles.
Today, Opening Doors provides free learning to schools across Africa, soon to be global, and a percentage of every purchase goes directly from Intellek to 1000 Hills. I continue to volunteer with the Inchanga community and am focused on various other philanthropic endeavours.
I have also co-founded my own EdTech company called SIDIS Academy, after the UK Government rolled out a new qualification, T Levels, which is arguably one of the biggest shake-ups that post-16 education has ever witnessed. SIDIS is a robust, one-stop learning platform that was required to help providers manage the delivery of the T Level qualifications and Industry Placements. SIDIS is the first digital platform to bring together the all-important triage of providers, students and employers. I'm excited about the new venture and alongside this, as SIDIS’s vision, supporting organisations working to stop Cyberbullying, as my business partners and I work to ensure the next generation use technology positively, with a safe peer-to-peer environment.
In everything I do, I strive to navigate a change, close knowledge gaps and open doors to new opportunities.
I've always been incredibly independent, passionate and very career-focused, which is why it was a bit of a surprise for me eight years ago when I met and married my now-husband and found myself with an instant family! I'm the stepmother of two boys who live with Jay and me full time, whom I absolutely adore as if they were my own and love every minute of family life.
For those of you that haven’t heard of the Japanese concept Ikigai, it refers to something that gives a person a sense of purpose, a reason for living. I feel that I'm absolutely living in my Ikigai!